Nvidia Tegra 2: The smartbook is a tablet

Nvidia's Tegra 2 chip to power a number of tablets in 2010, providing an alternative to Windows-based Netbooks.

Brooke Crothers
Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

LAS VEGAS--The smartbook is now a tablet, at least according to Nvidia, whose upcoming Tegra 2 chip will power these mobile computers in 2010.

Device makers using Nvidia's Tegra 2 chip will, for the most part, initially bring out tablets--not classic clamshell designs--according to Mike Rayfield, general manager of Nvidia's mobile business. "A year ago there was a lot of talk about clamshell devices," Rayfield said, speaking in a teleconference before the Consumer Electronics Show. But that's changed, according to Rayfield, because consumers may mistake a clamshell-design smartbook for a Windows-Intel-based Netbook.

"The tablet is a good entree from a (telecommunication) carriers standpoint. It would avoid confusion of people getting clamshells and assuming they're getting a Windows PC," he said.

On the CES floor, Nvidia was showing prototype tablets using its new Tegra 2 chip
On the CES floor, Nvidia was showing prototype tablets using its new Tegra 2 chip Brooke Crothers

Rayfield described the devices as having "screen sizes between 5 and 10 inches, all touch-capable...most of them are very thin, well under an inch," he said, adding that they will have one or two cameras, Wi-Fi, and 3G, among other features.

Tegra 2 will provide full high-definition Web streaming and Flash (Adobe) acceleration. "Tegra 2 is in production. Hundreds of development systems [are ]out in the wild. You'll see devices with Tegra 2 in the marketplace in 2010," he said.

Some tablet makers will go direct through retail, some through carriers, Rayfield said.

"The GPU (graphics processing unit) is used extensively in flash acceleration. We believe that will be a significant differentiator," he said, speaking about the Tegra 2's graphics component, a strong suit for Nvidia.